More Chinese titles set to hit world market after Frankfurt book fair

China's delegation to this year's Frankfurt Book Fair are starting to trickle back home after the event closed Sunday and they are bringing with them news of a world that is waking up to the charms of their nation's long literary traditions.

Organizers of the world's largest book fair -- which ran October 14 to 18 -- had China down as the guest nation this year and it seems the accolade spurred the international publishing industry into action.

Foreign publishers snapped up the copyrights to 1,300 Chinese books, according to a representative of China's delegation to the Frankfurt event, and Chinese firms had bought the rights to import in 883 titles from overseas.

Among those Chinese publications picked up for the overseas market were everything from a series of history books titled Cultural China, to the Scientific and Technological Development Roadmap, to Tibetan author Alai's popular novel King Gesar.

China's publishing industry -- like most everything else in the nation -- has been going through a rapid transformation in recent years, with industry figures showing that from the 10,000 titles published in the early 1980s, the country was presented with 275,000 last year -- and a staggering seven billion copies of them combined.

Chinese media also reported Monday that the rate of foreign books being imported compared to that of Chinese books being exported had regardless risen in recent years -- with the head of the government department responsible for overseeing copyright saying the publishing industry had been struggling to maintain decent translations of its work or even topics that interested international markets. And some in the industry agreed.

"We need to have more scope and select books from the angles of foreign readers,'' the China Publishing Group's editor-in-chief Huang Youyi told the China Daily newspaper.

But those in Frankfurt reported they were happy with what they had seen from the Chinese at the book fair -- and predicted further growth in exports in following years.

"There is now an understanding among foreign publishers that China is very serious about getting its culture and knowledge to the West,'' said Cambridge University Press's Stephen Bourne.

"It's a message that started to come out three years ago but has really made an impact at this year's fair.''

MS

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